Arfon Smith Named Head of the Institute’s New Data Science Mission Office (DSMO)

Ann Jenkins, jenkins[at]

The Institute welcomes Dr. Arfon Smith as the new Data Science Mission Office (DSMO) Head. Dr. Smith is responsible for maximizing the scientific returns from the Barbara A. Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), a huge data facility containing astronomical observations from 18 space astronomy missions and ground-based observatories. He will guide the optimization of the Institute's ability to help the scientific community address the challenges of accessing and working with large, complex astronomical observations.

The newly formed Data Science Mission Office will ensure that the Institute is a leader in the field of astronomical data science. "Our data holdings enable breakthrough science, are in high demand by the astronomical community, and are increasing rapidly," said Institute Director Dr. Kenneth R. Sembach. "To further enable the community to tap into the tremendous science potential of this resource and the data produced by future missions such as JWST and WFIRST (Wide Field Infrared Space Telescope), we are consolidating our data science efforts under our new Data Science Mission Office. I am confident this will enable better service, easier access, and the creation of new high-value data products that will expand the frontiers of astrophysics."

Dr. Smith was the co-founder and technical lead for the Zooniverse project at the University of Oxford, where he helped pioneer citizen science in astronomy. Since 2013, he has been a project scientist and program manager at GitHub, Inc., the world's largest platform for open-source software. His duties included developing innovative strategies for sharing data and software in academia. He also helped to define GitHub's business strategy for public data products, and he played a key role in establishing the company's first data science and data engineering teams. He received his doctorate in astrochemistry in 2006 from the University of Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, U.K.


Arfon Smith at the Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico in April 2016.